Stock traders John Santiago, left, and Paul Cosentino work at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. The Federal Reserve is expected to announce its benchmark interest rate later in the day. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

US stocks fall ahead of Fed decision on interest rates

September 18, 2019 - 11:19 am

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks moved broadly lower on Wall Street in midday trading Wednesday ahead of a highly anticipated decision from the Federal Reserve on interest rates.

The Fed is expected to cut its benchmark interest for a second time this year. Close attention will be paid to any clues Fed Chairman Jerome Powell gives about future rate policy during a 2:30 p.m. press conference.

Industrial, technology and bank stocks were among the biggest losers in the early going as investors headed cautiously for less-risky holdings.

Adobe fell 2.1% and led the tech sector lower after giving investors a weak profit forecast.

Banks, including JPMorgan and Bank of America, moved lower. Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.75% from 1.81% late Tuesday. Investors typically shift money into bonds when they grow more concerned about the economy's health. For banks, lower bond yields mean less lucrative interest rates on loans.

FedEx plunged and dragged down industrial stocks after issuing a disappointing earnings report.

Utilities held up the best with slight gains. The sector is typically considered a safer place to park money amid concerns about economic growth.

Investors largely expect the Fed to cut short-term interest rates by another quarter of a percentage point, following a similar cut in late July. That marked the first time in more than a decade that the central bank cut rates as it tries to shield the United States from the pain of a slowing global economy and the effects of the trade war with China.

U.S. and Chinese representatives plan to hold trade talks next month in Washington.

Aside from the rate cut, investors will also be listening for the Fed's assessment of the nation's economic health any other cues from Powell about the central bank's future intentions. Back in July, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 300 points when Powell refused to commit to a long cycle of rate cuts.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.3% as of 11:10 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow fell 70 points, or 0.3%, to 27,041. The Nasdaq fell 0.3%.

OVERSEAS: Stocks in Europe edged higher. A government report showed that inflation in Britain fell to a near three-year low in a potential boon to households as the nation faces a potentially painful economic exit from the European Union. Britain is scheduled to leave the trading bloc on Oct. 31 and might not have a deal in place that regulates trade and other issues with European Union nations.

Asian stocks were mixed. Export data from Japan show that the U.S.-China trade war is taking a toll on demand across the region. Japan said exports fell 8% in August, with declines in machinery, vehicles and chemicals.

MIDWEEK STUMBLE: The broader market wobbled throughout the week and is so far on track for a slight loss after three consecutive weeks of gains. Those gains came as both sides in the U.S.-China trade war took steps to ease tensions ahead of planned negotiations in October.

But, the volatility has been taking its toll. The S&P 500 is eking modest gains of 1.9% for the quarter with just a few weeks left. That marks a pullback from gains of 3.8% in the second quarter and a serious crimping of growth compared with a 13.1% rise during the first quarter.

OIL SLICK: Oil prices continued pulling back from a 14% spike on Monday as Saudi Arabia brings back production at an oil facility attacked over the weekend. It said half of the production cut by the attack is already restored and plans on full production by the end of the month. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 65 cents to $58.74 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 31 cents to $64.24.

MISSED DELIVERY: FedEx fell 14.2% after reporting a disappointing drop in fiscal first quarter profit and cutting its full-year forecast as the trade war takes its toll on economic growth. The company is also dealing with the loss of its lucrative contract with Amazon. FedEx cut ties with the retail giant over the last several months.

CEO Fred Smith said escalating tariffs and trade tension between the U.S. and China have lowered industrial production and hurt the international shipment of goods.

TOUGH TO CHEW: Chewy fell 6.3% to $28.31 after the online pet store's fiscal second quarter loss was far wider than Wall Street had expected. The company debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in June at $22 per share and closed at $34.99 on its first day.

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